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Evolution of Story



I don’t ever want to die. Beyond the normal fear of no longer drawing breath, I live in fear that when I die someone will inevitably need to clean out my office. They will probably go through my computer and my notebooks.

Give me a second so I can calm myself.

It’s not that I have something incriminating on my computer, aside from my solitaire score which will out me on how much time I wasted when I was supposed to be writing. I do have things that are embarrassing that I don’t ever want anyone to see though; manuscripts in various states of undress. There are short scenes, rough first drafts, and rambling attempts to capture a fleeting idea.

There are some that are so rough and embarrassing that they make me squirm when I think of them. The thought of someone reading one of those gives me heart palpitations.

There is an evolution to writing that begins with a crappy first draft.  I write very fast, so the first draft is beyond rough. Rough for me is a third draft. The first one is like driving down a non-graded dirt road in a 65 Chevy pickup truck without shocks while sitting on a 40 grit sandpaper seat cover being licked by a cat rough.

Stacy Verdick Case
One of the jewels sitting in the the drawer manuscript horrors is a manuscript that changes from first to third person halfway through because I thought the story would work better that way.  Another has all the characters named John 1, John 2, and John 3. I couldn’t think of names as fast as I was writing, and didn’t want to lose the story.

The second draft crew in the drawer are a little better. The structure problems are fixed. I’ve given all the characters their semi-permanent names, but overall it’s still bad. There’s no sky in my worlds at this point. By that I mean there’s no texture or depth. Some critics say my books have very little depth anyway, but in draft two it’s even worse.

Around draft three I might be comfortable with dying and letting people invade my space but even the third draft isn’t done. There are a few sharp edges that need to be sanded off and knocked down. Some flesh that needs to be wrapped around some boney areas.

The fourth draft is close to looking like the final product. At this point, I’m willing to open it up to my family and critique partners, but not before.

As a writer, I don’t think I differ in this process from the writer down the street. Good enough takes a lot of time, and if there’s a writer out there with perfect first drafts, I don’t want to meet them. I have enough complexes about my undressed manuscripts.

Please, if you hear that I’ve shuffled off my mortal coil, tell my family to build a bon fire with my unfinished work and chuck my hard drive on top for good measure. It’s what I would have wanted.

Guest post by Stacy Verdick Case, the author of the Catherine O’Brien mystery series. The second book in the series A Luring Murder was released in December. She still lives in terror that someone will see her undressed manuscripts and hopes to live long enough to finish them all. Visit Stacy on the web at www.StacyVerdickCase.com

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